Tribute to Rea Hayes

Rea B. Hayes

October 31, 1915 – February 15, 2001

Rea Bruce Hayes was born in Weston Ontario, Canada, on October 31, 1915. His first memory of chess was when he was taught to play at age eleven by a boy in the neighborhood. When he thought his friend was being inconsistent about the rules, Rea “read the article in the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica”. From that point on he was the teacher.

Rea joined the St. Clair Chess Club in Toronto and became its champion a few years later. This club later became the Canada Dairies Chess Club.


He moved to Greeneville, South Carolina in 1953 and won his first tournament at Columbia. One trophy was for being the South Carolina Open Champion, the other one was for being the highest scoring South Carolina resident. At the time, no one expected a resident to win the state tournament outright. In 1954, Rea was again the South Carolina Open Champion, but he only received one trophy this time.

While living in South Carolina, Rea tied for third with a 5-2 score in the 1953 Southern Open in Columbia. He finished in a foursome of 5.5-1.5 scores in the 1954 Southern Open in Atlanta and had to settle for fourth on tie breaks.

From South Carolina, Rea transferred to Chattanooga, TN for a two year period. Having just moved, he entered the 1955 Southern Open in Chattanooga and won the Southern Championship with a 6-1 score.

Rea lived the next 30 years of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio. There, he organized the Parkway Chess Club and the City League, a chess team competition. He revived the city championship which had been abandoned for years, winning both the city and club championship many times. For his efforts on behalf of the club, Rea is an honorary member.

In Ohio, the annual Ohio Championship was captured outright by Rea in 1963, winning with only one draw. Several other times, he tied for first in the event. The Region V Championship was his at least once. He was instrumental in organizing the Cincinnati Open, the second annual tournament in Ohio. He was also the president of the Ohio Chess Association. Rea was twice honored by his Cincinnati club, as Chessman of the Decade (1958-1968) and again when he left Cincinnati in 1987.

Before leaving Cincinnati, Rea retired from Union Central Life where he worked as an actuary. Rea visited New Zealand in 1980-1981. Playing chess with players in the Hastings area, one of them paid him the compliment of saying that if Rea lived there, he would be the second or third player in the country.

During 1981, he traveled to Sun City West in Arizona, to take part in the 1st US Senior Open tournament. Although ranked 7th of the eight upper section players, he won top honors. He conceded only one draw, to the player ranking below him. He also won the upset prize, a nice wristwatch, for beating the favorite, Eric Marchand. Rea’s lasting legacy is being the first US Senior Champion. The Senior trophy now rests at the US Chess Hall of Fame in Washington DC with his name engraved first on the list of champions.

He moved to Chattanooga for the second time in 1990 and became a regular player at the tournaments in and around the state of Tennessee. In 1992, he entered the 46th Annual Tennessee Open in Oak Ridge and captured State Champion honors. He had three wins and three draws.

Since his coming to Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Chess Club, Rea fulfilled the role of Chessman of the Area. He served in almost every club capacity over the years, including president and newsletter editor. All of his contributions and accomplishment have prompted the Chattanooga Chess Club to elect him Life Member and hold an annual tournament in his honor.